Bedbugs on planes: How often do planes get cleaned?

Another person says he was attacked by bedbugs on a flight
A second person has come forward to say he was attacked by bedbugs on a British Airways flight from London to Vancouver. Aaron McArthur has the story.

A story of bedbugs crawling out of airplane seats has raised questions over how often planes are cleaned.

Pictures of bedbug bites went viral after a B.C. woman shared her experience on a British Airways flight.

READ MORE: B.C. family stuck on 9-hour flight with bedbugs ‘pouring’ out of seat, TV

Heather Szilagyi said she, her daughter, and her fiance were on the nine-hour flight where they could see bugs coming out of the seat in front of them.

“To actually see them pouring out of the back of the TV on the seat, that was actually really gross,” Szilagyi told the Canadian Press.

The airline attendants told her there were no other available seats and so they couldn’t be moved.

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The flight was a British Airways flight earlier this month.  A representative from the company said that reports of bedbugs are extremely rare.

“Nevertheless, we are vigilant and continually monitor our aircraft.​  The presence of bedbugs is an issue faced occasionally by hotels and airlines all over the world,” a spokesperson told Global News in an email.

“BA takes any report like this very seriously and after undergoing checks a plane will receive any treatment necessary.”

WATCH: Study suggests bedbugs developed thicker skin to beat insecticides

Bedbug battle: study suggests insects developed thicker skin to beat insecticides
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Canadian regulations

In Canada, planes are required to be cleaned every 24 hours, West Jet officials confirmed.

“[WestJet] aircraft are groomed by the flight crew after each flight and by a professional groomer at the end of each work day,” spokesperson Lauren Stewart said. “If there is a more serious cleaning situation during the day (such as a large spill) then the professional cleaning service is utilized at that point.”
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The same goes for Canada’s other major airline.

“Air Canada follows a strict grooming program in which all interior surfaces are cleaned, sanitized and disinfected with products as approved by Health Canada on a regular basis,” spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said.

As for bedbugs, Transport Canada doesn’t require aircraft disinsection (the process of spraying insecticide) for planes arriving in or departing from Canada. But other countries do.

“Canadian registered aircraft must comply with the disinsection requirements of other countries,” the Transport Canada website reads.

Countries like Australia, Barbados, Cuba and other Central American countries all require disinsection. (For the complete list of countries, check the TC website here.)

READ MORE: Dirty laundry could be to blame for worsening global bed bug epidemic

WestJet and Air Canada both say they follow Health Canada’s guidelines for which insecticides to use, which are approved by either Health Canada or the World Health Organization.

WestJet officials said they have no known issues regarding bedbugs. A request to Air Canada on the subject wasn’t answered by time of publication.

But travellers shouldn’t be too worried there will be more incidents of bedbugs biting passengers on planes, Murray Isman, a University of British Columbia professor of entomology and toxicology, told the Canadian Press.

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“If you think about the normal situation which is someone sleeping in a hotel bed or a bed at home, the bedbugs don’t like a lot of disturbance or movement. They like it quiet, dark,” he said.

Cleanest airlines

None of the Canadian airlines have made it on to the World’s Cleanest Aircraft Cabins 2017 list, despite these measures.

According to the Skytrax World Airline Awards, which are voted for by passengers, the cleanest airline is Taiwan-based EVA Air.

LISTEN: Dr. Murray Isman speaks to the Ryan Jespersen Show about bed bugs on planes

Out of the top 20 on the list, most were from Asia, though German-based Lufthansa and Swiss Air were no. 10 and 11 respectively.

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The voting was based on quality of cleanliness in seat areas, tables, carpets and washrooms. The full list is on the World Airline Awards website here.

With files from the Canadian Press